THE BRONX - Research being done at some Bronx hospitals is exploring alternative treatments to breast cancer and giving patients new hope.

Currently, breast cancer is treated with chemotherapy and radiation, leaving patients extremely sick. However, the newest research is pointing doctors toward new diagnosis and treatment, making radiation and chemotherapy a thing of the past.

One new option is a biological treatment approach that attacks the cancer with fewer side effects than chemotherapy. Doctors at Montefiore Medical Center are working on new research that indicates some early-stage cancers may be treated with hormone therapy alone.

Another avenue that is being explored at Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center is a three to four week course of radiation therapy followed by a one-week boost aimed directly at the tumor. Early tests show the method could be as effective as a six-week course, but with a shorter treatment period.

Doctors say the best defense against breast cancer is early detection. They say all woman over age 40 should get annual mammograms.